Red, Black and White – Poppies Unite

Poppies, like people, of many colours

Remembrance Day is a big date on the civic calendar. First observed in 1919 it was designed to commemorate Armistice Day -11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, in 1918 when the guns ‘fell silent’ at the end of the Great War. Of course the guns never fell silent and the Great War just became known to history as the ‘First World War’ soon to be followed by a ‘Second’ and thereafter by many more to this very day and probably beyond. At Kings Square in Bridgwater well over 100 people attended what is always a crisp sunny day to lay wreaths of red poppies on the cenotaph, listen to ‘Jerusalem’ , the ‘Kohima epitaph’ and the ‘last post’ followed by a lowering of banners, a bugle call and a raising of banners ready for the next one. The square is always full of youth in uniforms upon whose shoulders ‘the next one’ will fall. But if you look closely at the King Square monument this year you won’t just see red poppies you’ll also spot a couple of white ones and  newly laid, for the first time ever, a ‘black one’. What does this all mean?


The Bridgwater Town Council ‘red poppy’ wreath laid by Mayor Liz Leavy

The ‘Red Poppy’ is the commonly accepted symbol of poppy day. Inspired by the poppies that grew across the grounds where the battles were fought and the dead lay mixed with the earth in their millions after World War One. The red poppy was devised by the Royal British Legion to show remembrance for the people who died fighting in the first world war ‘and the conflicts that followed it‘. The RBL is a charity created by veterans of World War One and the poppy is said to represent ‘remembrance and hope for a peaceful future‘. The poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ was written at the height of the battle on the western front in the spring of 1915 by Canadian Lieutenant  Colonel John McCrae inspired by the growth and resilience of the poppies. Literally millions of red poppies are sold each year and Kings Square was naturally awash with them this year.

2 White Poppy Wreaths, laid by the Peace Group and by the Quakers


The ‘White Poppy’ was created in the 1930s by the ‘Peace Pledge Union’ and remembers people who ‘died in conflict with a focus on an end to war’. Some of the wearers of the white poppy believe that the red poppy glorifies war and conflict and their aim is to ‘challenge the way we look at war‘. In Bridgwater the ‘Peace Group’ holds a separate ceremony a day or 2 ahead of the official remembrance day  and the white poppies remain on the monument alongside the red poppies. This year, sadly, they were moved and rescued later from ‘behind a tree’ where they’d been hidden and placed back on the statue. Town Council Leader Brian Smedley, who tracked down the missing white poppies, commented “Presumably, wars are fought to uphold basic freedoms, such as the right to hold a different point of view?”

Jean Harper laying Bridgwater’s first Black Poppy wreath


This year, for the first time, the ‘Black Poppy’ featured in the Bridgwater ceremony. Laid by members of the Somerset African Caribbean Network this poppy is designed to recognise the contribution of Black, African and Caribbean communities to the war effort, as ex-servicemen and women and as civilians.

This charitable organisation was launched in 2010 and aims to highlight ‘largely untold historical legacies‘ from the 16th century onwards.  At 2022 Remembrance Day it was Jean Harper of the SACN who laid the first ever Black Poppy wreath.

The Purple Poppy -for the animals


There is , finally, the ‘Purple Poppy’ so far not seen at the Bridgwater event. The purple poppy is worn to remember the animals that have been the victims of war, often drafted into the military operations and ending up losing their lives. In particular, many horses were killed or injured in World War One. Donations to the Animal Purple Poppy Fund go to charities including World Horse Welfare and the Household Cavalry Foundation.

Another Bridgwater First..the Black Poppy Wreath

Jean Harper of the Somerset African Caribbean Network in Kings Square on Remembrance Day 2022 alongside Town Council Leader Cllr Brian Smedley and Community Portfolio holder Cllr Liz Marsh.